How Bob Marley’s Daughter, Cedella Marley Saved Jamaican Women’s Football As They Qualify For World Cup
THE ROAD TO FRANCE
Having not played an international match since a 2-1 defeat by Guyana in November 2015, the Reggae Girlz played Barbados and Cuba in April 2018 before starting their World Cup qualification campaign in May.
It got off to a bright start with a thumping 13-0 win over Guadeloupe in the opening match, followed by a 3-0 victory over Martinique and a draw with Haiti. Victories continued, against Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba before, to no one’s surprise, the team lost to Canada.
But it was the match two days after the defeat by Canada, a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in Texas last October, which gave the team belief they could achieve what many had felt impossible.
“Going into the tournament without a lot of preparation was a little nerve-wracking but a lot of the girls are passionate about the sport,” says Bond-Flasza.
“When you’re able to win a match like that against Costa Rica, you build this sense of confidence and a sense of: I actually belong here, and perhaps we can really do something with this, perhaps we can really qualify for the World Cup.
“That win against Costa Rica was a big turning point for us.”
In 2008, funding was cut and the women’s senior team was disbanded. Six years later, Bob Marley’s daughter, Cedella, attempted to fix things by becoming an ambassador and sponsor through the Bob Marley Foundation, raising just enough for the team to re-form. But in 2016, the federation disbanded the team again.
Cedella, who lives in America, redoubled her efforts, convincing Alessandra Lo Savio, co-founder of the Alacran Foundation, to become a major contributor.
“Big up to Cedella Marley for putting her neck on the line for us,” Menzies told reporters immediately after the shootout win in Dallas. But perhaps her greatest act was persuading Menzies to coach the team because, in truth, it took some convincing.
“She told me her purpose. A large part of it is her dad’s love for the game and, second of all, she wanted to inspire young females in Jamaica,” explains Menzies, who gave up a career in corporate finance to become a full-time soccer coach.
“At the time, the program was in a downward situation. She helped create some type of positive vibe. When she talked about the impact it could have on the kids, the culture, the mindset, I said ‘I’m in’ because that’s what I’m here for. I’m not here for money and accolades, I’m just here to change the mindsets of people.”
I hope we can shock the world’
Reaching the World Cup, where Jamaica will be the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, is not the conclusion of the story.
Though the tale may not necessarily have a happily-ever-after ending there is a determination within the camp to prove people wrong in France or, as McClure puts it, to “shut up the haters and the naysayers.”
“I hope we can shock the world,” says the goalkeeper. “Like with anything, everyone isn’t going to support what we’re doing. For me, that’s motivation to do even better. I hear the word no and I say ‘Oh, yeah, then watch me.'”
If you have spent years following your dream with little support, if you have excelled despite the snorts of derision from some compatriots, the fire will never die.